In Europe, L-5-HTP has been used for decades as an approved treatment for depression, sleep problems and other medical complaints. It is just now starting to sweep America. There is substantial scientific evidence to support the contention that L-5-HTP is a safe, natural way to boost brain serotonin levels. Detailed clinical trials have shown L-5-HTP to produce results equal to or better than standard synthetic drugs used in the treatment of problems arising from serotonin deficiency syndrome, including depression. L-5-HTP and Depression As research mounted during the 1970s and ‘80s L-5-HTP was increasingly regarded as a potentially valuable antidepressant with few side effects. Results of dozens of studies have shown L-5-HTP to be just as effective as the established drugs; the SSRI’s such as Prozac, the MAO inhibitors and the tricyclic antidepressants. The advantages of L-5-HTP lie in the fact that L-5-HTP is better tolerated and associated with fewer and much milder side effects, the most common being digestive distress, and it usually went away with continued use of the supplement. L-5-HTP and Fibromyalgia Over the past 25 years, Dr. Federigo Sicuteri at the University of Florence in Italy, has treated many patients for fibromyalgia with L-5-HTP and has accumulated a tremendous amount of evidence of its success. In a published report, he notes, "In our experience, as well as that of other pain specialists, L-5-HTP can largely improve the painful picture of primary fibromyalgia." A double-blind study from the rheumatology unit of a prominent Milan hospital involved 50 patients, divided into two groups. The group that received L-5-HTP (100 mg per day) showed significant improvement in their symptoms, while the placebo group experienced virtually no improvement. Improvements with many symptoms were noted; number of painful areas, morning stiffness, sleep patterns, anxiety and fatigue. In a similar, second study, patients who took 100 mg of L-5-HTP three times daily reported initial results in several days, with maximum results at 30 days, and the benefits of the treatment continuing at that level through the rest of the 90 day trial. L-5-HTP also produces excellent results as a treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), due in large measure to its improvement of sleep quality and mood. L-5-HTP and Weight Loss L-5-HTP can play an important role in its ability to help people lose weight. A 1992 placebo-controlled, double-blind study reported excellent results treating obesity using 900 mg L-5-HTP daily. Participants taking L-5-HTP lost 3-5 times as much weight as those who were taking a placebo. One important function of serotonin is to signal the brain when the body has ingested a sufficient amount of food, creating a feeling of satisfaction and fullness. With depressed levels of serotonin, it takes longer for the brain to recognize this satisfied feeling, and you are likely to eat more. Because L-5-HTP increases serotonin, and because serotonin makes you feel like you’ve eaten enough, taking L-5-HTP can reduce your appetite. And because increased levels of serotonin can improve your mood and raise your energy level, it may be much easier to stick to a diet as well as commit to an exercise plan, which contributes to further weight loss. L-5-HTP and Migraines Clinical research shows that L-5-HTP is as effective as pharmaceutical drugs in reducing symptoms of migraine headaches, presumably because of its serotonin-boosting properties. According to researchers at the University of Milan’s Pain Research and Treatment Unit, anywhere from 77.4 to 93.5 percent of people with chronic daily headaches get better when they take L-5-HTP. This study lasted two months and results continued to improve the longer the patients took L-5-HTP. L-5-HTP and Insomnia First reported during the early 1970s in studies by Dr. Richard J. Wyatt, at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Mary., and Dr. Vincent Zarcona at Stanford University, L-5-HTP is proving to be a much more effective alternative for dealing with sleep problems in a safe and natural way. According to the studies, the advantage of L-5-HTP lies in its ability to improve sleep quality by increasing the length of time spent in both REM sleep and in deep sleep, without increasing total sleep time. The higher the dose, the more time spent in REM. By shifting the balance of the sleep cycle, L-5-HTP makes sleep more restful and rejuvenating. In addition, L-5-HTP has also been reported in numerous double-blind clinical studies, to decrease the time required to get to sleep and to decrease the number of awakenings. How much is usually taken? In a controlled trial, L-5-HTP (300 mg per day) was shown to be effective in reducing many symptoms of fibromyalgia, including pain, morning stiffness, sleep disturbances, and anxiety. Migraine attacks were reduced in frequency, severity, and duration in 90% of those taking 400 mg per day of L-5-HTP in a well-controlled trial. Larger doses of L-5-HTP (600 mg per day) were found to be as effective as prescription medications for reducing migraine headache attacks in adults in two double blind studies. Children who suffered from migraines and had problems sleeping responded well to a daily dose of L-5-HTP equal to 20 mg for every 10 lbs of body weight in a controlled study. For depression, 300 mg per day is often effective. A single 100 mg nighttime dose of L-5-HTP was sufficient to improve the duration and depth of sleep in one placebo-controlled study. Appetite reduction and weight loss (averaging 11 lbs in twelve weeks) has occurred with doses of 600–900 mg daily. Vitamin B6, niacin, and magnesium help convert L-5-HTP to serotonin. Side Effects or Interactions L-5-HTP causes mild gastrointestinal disturbances in some people. These side effects include mild nausea, heartburn, flatulence, feelings of fullness, and rumbling sensations. Check with your health care provider before taking L-5-HTP if you have high blood pressure or diabetes, are pregnant or nursing, are taking antidepressant drugs, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). L-5-HTP may add to the effects of St. John's wort. REFERENCES: Caruso I, Sarzi Puttini P, Cazzola M, Azzolini V. 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